This article was shared with permission from the Class of 1979 website: https://www.tdv79ers.ca/classmates/anecdotes/roads-memories/exam-routine/seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time
With Thanks to 12317 Scotty Mills
As I have written about before, exam routine at Royal Roads was a bit different than what I experienced at RMC. Maybe it was because we were a smaller college and we got to know everyone in the Cadet Wing, or maybe it was the weather or the mating calls of the peacocks, but we just did things a little bit differently and in retrospect now I must wonder “What were we thinking?”.
So with anxiety already being quite high because of exams, the Cadet Wing had to find a way to relieve some of the tension we were all feeling. One of the ways sounds crazy but it was the “Wing Scream”. Now what is the Wing Scream you may ask? The answer is exactly as it sounds, literally. Someone, usually in Wing Headquarters, decided that it was time to let off some steam and would announce a time for a Wing Scream. It always took place between 22:00 and 23:00 hrs to coincide with the one time of the day when the lights on the halls were turned on and we were allowed to congregate and goof around. It was sometimes referred to as noisy hours, as opposed to silent hours. We tended to gather in the halls doing the usual silly things like playing frisbee, running mattress races or anything else that would take our mind off exams even if for only that one hour.
The “Wing Scream” also had to be done at a time other than when the duty bugler stood in front of Nixon Block and played Last Post. That was one routine that we would never interrupt.
At the appointed hour the entire Wing would open the windows to their cabins and stick their heads out, and wait for the signal. Then in unison the whole group would scream at the top of their lungs releasing all the pent-up stress and frustration from exams. Very cathartic, but also extremely weird. I always wondered if they heard us across the straits in Bellingham, or even in the Dockyard at Esquimalt.
As it was Exam Routine a lot of us didn’t always want to go to the mess to get our meals. Often someone would order pizza to be delivered during noisy hours. One night a pizza delivery driver arrived at the front of Nixon Block just before the start of a Wing Scream. He parked his car and started heading up the stairs to the block to make his delivery. He looked up and was greeted by the sight of all the windows opened and filled with the heads of most of the Cadet Wing. He didn’t break step but you could see by the look on his face he wasn’t sure what was going on. That question was soon answered when Zero hour arrived and the Wing opened their collective mouths and screamed at the top of their lungs.
Credit to him he really only hesitated going up the stairs for a second, then he sped up his pace and scurried into the relative safety of QM Lobby in Nixon Block where he delivered his pizza and hopefully was tipped well for his troubles. Delivery complete he almost doubled out the front door and down the stairs to his car which he had left running. He jumped in to the car and burned rubber as he shot down the Circle and fled the college, probably vowing never to take a delivery to that madhouse again.
Now the other thing we did was also a bit strange. I am sure that others may want to take credit for the idea, and they may be correct, but this is how I remember it. As these were the days before computers, laptops, tablets and the such became ubiquitous, we relied on handwritten notes from our classes. As exams approached many of us parsed what was in our textbooks and class notes into more condensed versions of notes that we thought would contain the information most likely to be on the exam. Many of the profs would give us hints that we could expect a question say on the Seven Year’s War, or Boyle’s law, or Chebyshev’s theorem (Stats was the only part of math I liked). So, we would generally concentrate our cramming in those areas and write down the most salient exam-worthy points. We would then acquire about a dozen or so pages of key information that we could then try to cram into our brains. Now not everyone worked this way but many of us did, or at least used a variation of that technique.
Once the three-hour pressure cooker of the exam was over we would return to our cabins with our stack of notes that most of us thought were now unneeded, feeling confident that we wouldn’t have to write supps. So, as we were relaxing, our idle minds tried to find some form of amusement to help us relax. A favourite such past time was to fashion our notes into paper airplanes and launch them out the windows. It was a liberating experience that helped many of us rid the stress of that exam.
This was a particularly good activity for the first years most of whom looked out into the area we called Senior Stadium. It was sheltered from the winds blowing off the ocean by the building itself. A perfect point to see who could make the plane that would fly the furthest or do aerobatics or what have you. Fun for “kids” of all ages.
But as I mentioned idle hands and our inventive imagination went to work figuring out how could we improve the experience. Someone decided maybe they could add fire to the mix, so some bright lights used a lighter to ignite the tail of the plane and launch an airborne vehicle that they hoped was would soon erupt in a spectacular flaming death spiral. The first problem with that was that the wind tended to extinguish it before it burst in to flame in a satisfying enough manner. Also, we were on Vancouver Island in December, not the most arid place on the face of the earth, so the paper tended to be a bit damp (like everything else) and often did not burn as well as hoped.
What would be the solution? Well, if you have watched a movie or TV show about fire fighters you know the secret word would be “accelerant”. And we had accelerant galore as this was the mid-70s. Everyone had bottles of cologne or aftershave like Hai Karate, Old Spice, or Drakkar Noir. Even better were the Avon products, often in glass bottles shaped like other objects such as a Bugatti Roadster, or a cowboy boot or hat, or a sailing ship. One of our classmates in Mack Flight Ed Hatfield had a spectacular array of these things including one that looked like a mallard duck coming in for a landing, its wings spread, feet just touching the water and for an added touch of authenticity the head and lid were fashioned out of a green metallic material. Ed’s roomie, Walt Natynczyk was particularly impressed and nick named it “Where Eagles Dare”.
So a couple of us ran down to Ed’s cabin to show him our “bright” idea of using the large stockpile of alcohol-based liquids he had on hand to create these flaming darts of death that would soon rain down into Senior Stadium. It didn’t take long for the chaps in other Flights to catch on and soon we were seeing all sorts of flying creations meeting their fiery doom. From simple paper darts to multi-sheet contraptions that looked they were designed to bomb the Ruhr Valley.
This was all fun and games and soon the Seniors started noticing what was going on in the back of the building and wanted to join in on the fun. The issue with that was that most of their cabins faced the front of the building. Not only would they be littering where the powers that be would notice but they would not enjoy the natural windbreak provided by Grant Block itself. They were exposed to the prevailing winds coming in off the ocean.
One night a member of Wing Headquarters decided it was time to get rid of his unwanted notes and took his cue from the first years. His cabin was on the upper deck at the very top of the building. He fashioned his first plane, grabbed a handy bottle of English Leather or Jade East, doused it, lit it and launched it. He was expecting to see that much desired spectacular death spiral but instead the plane went out about a metre, where it quickly succumbed to the prevailing winds. The nose dropped, did a 180 degree turn back towards the building, all the while losing altitude, and then flew straight into the open window of the unoccupied cabin below his, where it immediately set the curtains alight.
Of course, mayhem ensued as people rushed down a deck to extinguish the fire and wonder what happened. Luckily the curtains were only lightly singed so we didn’t have to evacuate the building. However, in the aftermath, the college authorities announced the very next day: “Cadets are reminded they are no longer allowed to throw any burning objects out the windows of Nixon Block.”
Funny that someone had to make that an official announcement. I guess foresight wasn’t our strong suit.